Study of impact on mobility:
The impact of construction sites on pedestrian traffic in urban areas (case study)

Ekaterina Levitskaya, github: el2666, NYU ID: el2666  

This study explores the question of the impact of urban interventions, specifically construction sites, on the amount of pedestrian traffic in a given urban area, specifically Grand Central area in Manhattan. The results of the experiment show that when considering examining impact of a certain intervention (construction works, weather, other events) on pedestrian traffic, it is imperative to understand the context of the neighborhood in terms of what social activities are most prominent in this area, as well as whether this area frequently experiences extreme weather conditions that could significantly alter pedestrian traffic patterns. The experiment (together with existing research on this topic) shows that urban areas that are relying on visitor attractiveness as a main factor of development are more influenced by varying conditions in weather, construction works, etc. than urban areas with a high level of commercial activities (workplace hubs). Workplace hubs, such as Grand Central Partnership area in Manhattan (the experiment site in this study), have consistent peaks during weekdays and lows during weekends which do not change throughout the year, despite the season or any ongoing construction works

Studying the impact of different urban interventions on pedestrian traffic is important, as from the amount of pedestrian traffic we can infer the level of economic activity on that street or neighborhood. Therefore, by being able to see the impact of different urban interventions we can predict the level of economic activity in the neighborhood. 
One of the most interested (in seeing impact on pedestrian traffic) urban stakeholders are business improvement districts, and research on the topic of influence of construction sites on pedestrian traffic has been found as the most applicable to the topic of this paper among these stakeholders. There is more general research on quantitative methods in assessing impact in urban areas (please see a full list in References section), but specifically the topic of influence of construction on pedestrian traffic is only found in research of business improvement districts, therefore, I wanted to describe it in more detail, as more applicable. Business improvement district is a public/private partnership in which property and business owners elect to make a collective contribution to the maintenance, development, and promotion of their commercial district. In the US, Metropolitan Improvement District and Downtown Seattle Association (MID/DSA) conducted a research in which they estimated an influence of construction works on pedestrian traffic in their area - their key finding was that areas with significant decreases in pedestrian count were adjacent to road construction projects. In the study of impact it is important to understand the characteristics of a given neighborhood and, most importantly, perceptions of residents and visitors to that neighborhoods. Based on perception study conducted by MID/DSA, “for the entire survey region, half (51%) consider Downtown Seattle to be their preferred destination for a day of shopping and entertainment”. This area has a high number of visitor attractions. The case study that I was going to conduct in this paper deals with a different type of neighborhood - Grand Central Partnership (also a business improvement district, Fig. 1) - a work hub, or as they call themselves, a “working heart of Manhattan”, a global center of commerce and trade, with 70 million square feet of commercial space (for comparison, Downtown Seattle - 1.9 million square feet of commercial space). Therefore, the characters of two neighborhoods are clearly different - in one case, the imperative of getting to work despite the construction or weather condition, therefore, predictable stable amount of pedestrian traffic (Grand Central), on the other hand, a visitor attraction, shopping and entertainment hub which places high value on visitor attraction and where such interventions, as construction works or weather patterns, could have a significant impact on pedestrian traffic. With a global work hub as Grand Central area, the imperative is different. Conducting research on existing literature on this topic helped to understand that in the studying of impacts the characteristics of the neighborhoods are important to take into account, when interpreting results of the findings.